- Mary Finnegan
It Is(n't) Easy Being Green!
Updated: Jan 20
The first thing I do when setting up my workstation is to put a small potted plant on my desk. I have many conversations with that plant since I work alone in my home. Professionals say chatting with your plants make them thrive – but the relationship is symbiotic.
All of us who work at an indoor computer station or look at a screen constantly has probably heard of the 20-20-20 rule to reset your brain and lessen eyestrain. The instructions are: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look away for 20 seconds and focus on objects at least 20 feet away. Ideally, it is suggested to look outside a window to sunshine, trees, nature, or at the very least, my little plant on my desk. The trending buzzword incorporated into this rule is Biophilia, which is defined as an innate human condition – a love of life and all that is alive – a desire to connect with nature.
Biophilia in Urban Design
This means that we, as urban planners, should consider not only the utility of a design but the emotional well-being of the users of that design. As Kermit the Frog sings, “it isn’t easy being green!” 🎶
Biophilic designed buildings and communities incorporate some features of nature:
Water - Water is multi-sensory -- the sounds, the smell, the motion of running water.
Earth - The smell of fresh earth and growing plants -- plants are indoor air purifiers – creating a sustainable and natural healthy environment.
Air - Good ventilation and fresh air offer a comfortable temperature and humidity level in indoor environs.
Natural Colors - Neutral and warm colors enhance a calm and creative environment.
Sustainable and natural building materials - Choosing materials like bamboo and wood as building products reduce the carbon footprint of the building, lessen noise pollution and reduces overall temperatures.
Location of buildings and the use of outdoor space - Planning with the least amount of ecological disruption to the property and creating outdoor spaces for the community is on trend, keeping climate change abated.
Besides enhancing the beauty of a building and environment, these features have been proven to relieve stress and anxiety of the occupants in the building, improve concentration and productivity, and encourage a happier environment.
Veterans and Horticultural Therapy
The military industry and society have been well aware of this phenomenon for years now – the Horticultural Therapy programs that military veterans can subscribe to alleviate stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms is only one example of the military’s forward thinking towards a more holistic view of urban sustainable development that will contribute to individual and societal changes. Basically, veterans learn how to garden, offering them a purpose with obvious and fast rewards, namely crop output. And the visual rewards of an outside garden spill out into the entire military community. Growing their own food also increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, contributing to a more nourishing diet and a new sense of community.
An example of this program is in Colorado. The Chatfield Farms Veterans Farm Program offers veterans a 21-week program that supports the idea that gardening and “connecting people with plants” is good for the wellbeing of everyone involved. The before-mentioned garden projects are small but mighty examples to mitigate climate change and provide healthier work environments. Another positive: gardening is simpler than you might think!
Having a well-designed automobile- and pedestrian-safe installation is foremost in planning. Using the principles of Biophilic Design, incorporating natural green spaces, and using sustainable and natural materials for future projects and buildings within military installations can be considered as an integral part to promote the wellbeing of all that use the installation and the ongoing stewardship of our natural resources.
The above-mentioned features of Biophilic Design aim to eliminate the existing utilitarian and pragmatic designs that we see often on military installations. By virtue of military work being high-stress and task oriented, the external environment could help alleviate burn out. Biophilic design is just one facet of salutogenic principles, defined as design “to create an environment that stimulates the mind in order to create pleasure, creativity, satisfaction and enjoyment”. In a 2019 study on Biophilic Design in military environments, researchers concluded that:
Colors can stimulate the creativity area of the brain. Designing with warm colors can produce feelings of happiness, and cool colors are likely to create a relaxing atmosphere to lower stress levels.
Furniture design and placement can increase creativity and promote communication.
Plant life in the workplace enhances mental restoration and even high-quality artificial plants can have the same effect.
The Schreifer Group is always in the conversation of ideas to offer the latest in urban sustainable development for military locales, for the good of this earth and all its citizens.
Keep talking to your plants – even the fake ones!
1. Ali, Irena, and Keely McKinlay. "The Dungeon Effect: The importance of biophilic design to C2 effectiveness in military environments." https://static1.squarespace.com/static/53bad224e4b013a11d687e40/t/5dc416276b63dd51c9223e79/1573131815856/24th_ICCRTS_paper_73.pdf
2. Brick, S. (n.d.). Improving Health in the Military and Beyond Using Salutogenic Design. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/F-06-2021-0058/full/html
3. Chatfield Farms Veterans Farm Program. Denver Botanic Gardens. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.botanicgardens.org/chatfield-farms-veterans-farm-program
4. Hadjiosif, S. (2021, November 7). Biophilic Design. Terra Movement | An Artivist Hub. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.terramovement.com/the-principles-and-benefits-of-biophilic-design/
5. Marcin, A. (2017, February 4). 20-20-20 rule: Does it help prevent digital eye strain? Healthline. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/20-20-20-rule
6. Meore, A., Sun, S., Byma, L., Alter, S., Vitale, A., Podolak, E., ... & Haghighi, F. (2021). Pilot evaluation of horticultural therapy in improving overall wellness in veterans with history of suicidality. Complementary therapies in medicine, 59, 102728. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229921000698
7. Stoutz, M. (2019, May 20). Health benefits of gardening for Veterans. VA News. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://news.va.gov/58542/health-benefits-of-gardening-for-veterans/